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Christians in Zhejiang Province have accused the authorities of seeking to rein in the influence of Christianity after local churches were ordered to take down their crosses. DW spoke to China sociologist Fenggang Yang.
But demolition crews have met resistance as parishioners, who claim the demolition of crosses has been taking place since last year, hold prayer vigils and block the entrances to church grounds with cargo trucks. Even China's state-approved Christian associations have denounced the campaign as unconstitutional and humiliating.
Communist China officially guarantees freedom of religion though authorities are sometimes suspicious of religious groups. The state-run Global Times newspaper said in July authorities in Zhejiang denied demolishing crosses on churches, but had said some crosses had been "relocated" out of safety concerns.
In a DW interview, Fenggang Yang, Director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, speaks not only about the possible reasons behind the campaign, but also about its legality and impact on China's growing Christian population.
DW: Why have provincial authorities decided to take down church crosses?
Fenggang Yang: The Zhejiang authorities have carried out this campaign in the name of "san gai yi chai (3 modifications and 1 demolishing)," which was publicly launched on February 21, 2013. The 3+1 campaign is posited as aiming to demolish illegal constructions and make appearance improvement in areas of old residences, old factories, and villages that have merged into cities.
However, an internal government document issued in 2013 clearly shows that the real target of the campaign is Christian churches and the purpose is to reduce Christianity's public profile.
The campaign document states, in no uncertain terms, that: "The priority is to remove crosses at religious activity sites on both sides of expressways, national highways and provincial highways. Over time and in batches, bring down the crosses from the rooftops to the façade of the buildings." Since the launch of the campaign, its execution has persisted in spite of resistance and opposition.
Who ordered this move and how likely is it that it is linked to Chinese President Xi Jinping?..........
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